April 2013        

Time for a radical departure

As a philosopher famously wrote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is vividly confirmed by the present leadership of the Labour Party and the ICTU.
     The result of the Meath East by-election is evidence enough of the likely prospects of the Labour Party at the next general election. It will be reduced to a few rural TDs, concerned mainly with with their personal fiefdoms, and some pockets of middle-class support in the cities and towns. Whole swathes of urban working-class districts will be no-go areas for the Labour Party.
     But then, anyone with the slightest knowledge of recent history could have told them that. It was inevitable that this would be the outcome of the Labour Party’s policy of propping up Fine Gael and the establishment.
     The leading elements of the trade union movement also appear to have forgotten, or are ignoring, their own experience of recent decades. “Social partnership” castrated the trade unions in the private sector, and Croke Park I and II will see them experience a similar fate in the public sector. Membership can only decline more, further weakening trade union organisation.
     The establishment continue to witter on about how we have “turned the corner” and are on the way back, that most of the heavy lifting is behind us and we can face the future knowing that we are all marching together to a better place.
     The recent data on economic growth—a very dubious concept in the first place—shows that this state had gone back into recession by the end of 2012 (just in case you missed the recovery). Despite all the talk about corners being turned, we find that the economy is going backwards. Gross domestic product is lower than it was in 2009; gross national product (which doesn’t include the effect of movements in profits by transnational corporations) is back to where it was in the middle of 2010. Investment in the economy has fallen by €21 billion, personal consumption by €7.1 billion, and government spending by €5.6 billion.
     Economists point to the “green shoots of recovery” because exports are up: that is to say that we will export our way out of the crisis. Yet exports have grown only relative to the drop in imports: exports are €11.7 billion, while imports have dropped by €15.8 billion.
     The strategy is to reduce the wage base for both the state and private employers, reduce government spending, reduce government consumption of goods and services, and finance government services from an increased call upon working people’s wages, thereby reducing their capacity to consume.
     They are “shedding” more and more workers from the public service, who in turn will have to rely upon the state. The private sector is not capable of creating enough jobs for the growing numbers of unemployed.
     Globally, monopoly capitalism has vast amounts of capital that cannot be invested because capital will invest only where it expects it can realise a profit. It does not invest in the common good, or to promote national economic prosperity. Its bottom line is simply profit.
     But the global economy is stagnant, so capital is being built up with nowhere to go other than into speculation.
     This is why we have the stock markets booming while all around the rest is stagnant. This is why the Irish establishment and the mass media point to a growth in property prices as a sign of recovery, rather than a sign of speculation by investors and desperation by families who need a home.
     Rather than staggering down a path like lemmings to permanent debt servitude, a lifetime of precarious employment, generational mass emigration, we need a new departure. We need a national transformative strategy, one that harnesses capital to the needs of the people rather than harnessing people to the needs of capital—a strategy for challenging monopoly capitalism, not for saving it.

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